Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How I Celebrated My 58th Birthday

We were enjoying a family lunch on a beautiful summer morning. My husband and I, my sister and brother-in-law and my parents were joined by my brother-in-law’s business partner, Ed Hirsh. Ed was what was known in those days as a bachelor, a single man. He was a frequent guest at my sister’s home and was particularly fond of her eight year old daughter. He often talked about the wish to have children of his own.
At some point, I mentioned that I had a birthday the following week. Ed told us, excitedly, that it was his birthday, the very same day. "I’m inviting you all to celebrate next week at my favorite restaurant. They have dance music there and we’ll have a wonderful time."
The night of the birthday party arrived and we all met at the restaurant in a festive mood. Ed brought a guest, who I guessed was a professional dancer. The men in the party took turns whirling her around the dance floor.
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and then a waiter marched to our table with a lighted birthday cake inscribed with my name and Ed’s. With a bow to all of us, murmuring "My pleasure" Ed got up to cut the first slice of the cake.
He held the knife high in the air, then suddenly it dropped and Ed fell to the floor. After the first moment of shock, my husband and my father, both physicians, bent down to examine Ed’s motionless body. After an interminable moment, they announced that Ed was dead. We all sat there, immobilized, unable to believe that what had just happened was true.
The management of the restaurant called the police and my husband and brother-in-law went with them to identify the body. The rest of us left for home, sad and silent.
Early the next morning, there was a telephone call for my husband, a very frequent occurrence in our household. This time it was not a patient. A woman identified herself as the wife of the man who had died in the restaurant last night, the man known to us as Ed Hirsch and to her as Tom Gilbert. The morning pages had written up the story of the way Ed had died and my husband’s name was mentioned in the article as the physician who had been present. The woman described that their family lived in Queens and that she and their two daughters had been expecting Tom home last evening and had prepared a surprise birthday party for him. She knew his work as a traveling salesman and said he was often on the road. She was completely unaware that he was a partner in a prosperous business.
There were many complex developments to this story, but that’s another story. This is the story of how I celebrated my 58th birthday.

1 comment:

Becky said...

I like this story because we never know who people really are until some blatant thing happens. We have a fantasy of who we want people to be but it doesn't always get confirmed. How nice that you remember this. Now that the pain is gone, it is amusing to consider the complexities of human nature that cause us to engage in these deceptions. Are they more for others or for ourselves?